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Red Eve
Over the remainder of that afternoon I will pass in silence. Indeed, looking
backward now, I cannot recollect that it afforded one incident worthy of record.
But because great things overshadow small, so it may be that whereas my
recollections of quite trivial episodes are sharp enough up to a point, my
memories from this point onward to the horrible and tragic happening which I
have set myself to relate are hazy and indistinct. I was troubled by the continued
absence of Val Beverley. I thought that she was avoiding me by design, and in
Harley's gloomy reticence I could find no shadow of comfort.
We wandered aimlessly about the grounds, Harley staring up in a vague fashion
at the windows of Cray's Folly; and presently, when I stopped to inspect a very
perfect rose bush, he left me without a word, and I found myself alone.
Later, as I sauntered toward the Tudor garden, where I had hoped to encounter
Miss Beverley, I heard the clicking of billiard balls; and there was Harley at the
table, practising fancy shots.
He glanced up at me as I paused by the open window, stopped to relight his
pipe, and then bent over the table again.
"Leave me alone, Knox," he muttered; "I am not fit for human society."
Understanding his moods as well as I did, I merely laughed and withdrew.
I strolled around into the library and inspected scores of books without forming
any definite impression of the contents of any of them. Manoel came in whilst I
was there and I was strongly tempted to send a message to Miss Beverley, but
common sense overcame the inclination.
When at last my watch told me that the hour for dressing was arrived, I heaved a
sigh of relief. I cannot say that I was bored, my ill-temper sprang from a deeper
source than this. The mysterious disappearance of the inmates of Cray's Folly,
and a sort of brooding stillness which lay over the great house, had utterly
oppressed me.
As I passed along the terrace I paused to admire the spectacle afforded by the
setting sun. The horizon was on fire from north to south and the countryside was
stained with that mystic radiance which is sometimes called the Blood of Apollo.
Turning, I saw the disk of the moon coldly rising in the heavens. I thought of the
silent birds and the hovering hawk, and I began my preparations for dinner
mechanically, dressing as an automaton might dress.
Paul Harley's personality was never more marked than in his evil moods. His
power to fascinate was only equalled by his power to repel. Thus, although there
was a light in his room and I could hear Lim moving about, I did not join him
when I had finished dressing, but lighting a cigarette walked downstairs.
The beauty of the night called to me, although as I stepped out upon the terrace I
realized with a sort of shock that the gathering dusk held a menace, so that I
found myself questioning the shadows and doubting the rustle of every leaf.
Something invisible, intangible yet potent, brooded over Cray's Folly. I began to
think more kindly of the disappearance of Val Beverley during the afternoon.